Twofer : Two Posts in One

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Source: KFLEnglish.de

TWO POSTS IN ONE

So, I’ve been away for a while as I worked through the semester at MTSU.  It was difficult trying to adjust to my first semester of taking graduate classes at the PhD level, working in the University’s Writing Center, Teaching, and trying to write creatively all at the same time.  Unfortunately, the blog was one (of many) casualties of trying to all these myriad and various endeavors at a high level.

However, to quote Hideo Kojima from the 2016 Sony E3 Conference or Chun Li from the Street Fighter series: “I’m Back!”  I plan to post weekly as I always have a set time on Sundays when I can write (I just haven’t been taking advantage of that time usefully).  I now intend to do so.  This first post after the long hiatus is what my late uncle called a “Twofer” (Two topics in one post).

CHILDE ROLAND ON ELECTRICSPEC.COM (FREE!)

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Source: YouTube.com

“Childe Roland,” my short-story about Roland and his search for the Dark Tower (based Robert Browning’s poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came“) has been published in the November 30th, 2016 issue of Electric Spec.  The issue is FREE, so you are welcome to read the story and come back here to post comments/reactions to the story.

They do solicit donations, and as they pay their writers as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, it would be awesome if you might consider a small donation to their website to help us writers out.  Publication is nice, but as writers need to eat as well, publication with pay is the most preferable outcome (even if the pay is small).

You can find a link to the online magazine above, but if you just want to read Childe Roland by itself, you can find a directly link here.  A word of caution: Electric Spec does switch out their stories on a quarterly basis, so if you are reading this entry long after Nov. 30th, 2016, then the story will not be available.  I’ll try to post an update here (if I can remember) should this happen).

WARLIGHT IN VISIONS VI (AVAILABLE VIA AMAZON.COM IN PAPERBACK AND ON KINDLE)

galaxies-vi

My story, “WarLight” was published in Galaxies VI, edited by Carrol Fix.  It is currently for sale via Amazon.com.  It is available in paperback and Kindle formats with the Kindle format being by far the most inexpensive way to check out my story (currently $2.99).  In addition, you will find other Sci-Fi stories included as well.

Be sure to support Carrol Fix’s anthology if you can.  As a writer for anthologies, I don’t receive any additional payment for how well the anthology sells, but anthologies need to sell copies, otherwise editors like Carrol won’t create new anthologies for writers like me to publish our stories in.  That’s just the way publishing works.

Thanks for reading and I will try to keep up this blog on a weekly schedule (I’m planning on a Christmas post as well as I have the same the time even though its a holiday, but I’ll wing it as I may post on Christmas Eve instead.)

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Dr. Strange: Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

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Source: ComingSoon.net

MAGIC AND MARTIAL ARTS

This is a really interesting story.  In many ways it is the story that I was trying to write with my own story, I, Magi.  The creators manage to combine Magic with Martial Arts and the results come together surprisingly well.  Now, martial arts movies are a “guilty pleasure” of mine.  I know some of the earlier ones in the 70s and 80s aren’t really good narratively speaking and that the English dubbing is sometimes so awful as to have entered into the realm of cliche, but I love the action, the movement, and the artistry of the genre.  Recent entries, since the mid-90s have been much better and I feel they have come into their own thanks to great actors in the field.  I love (& have seen most of the practicing martial arts actors–male and female–and have enjoyed them immensely, but I have a personal fondness for Jackie Chan, mostly for the outtakes reel that he includes at the end of his movies).  There are two or three centerpiece fights in this movie and add in magic–and well, you have a strong action based movie.

If there is a downside, its that the movie is an origin story, so if you already know the origin of the hero, Dr. Stephen Strange, then you will have a pretty good clue to the first half of the movie.  Still, that is a minor complaint (similar to knowing the origin stories of heroes like Batman or Spider-man.)

A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR

This movie has a pretty good sense of humor as well.  From other reviewers, some of the jokes seemed to be hit or miss for them, but for me, I chuckled at the jokes, even when the set-up was telegraphed a mile away.  There were some truly laugh aloud moments, but the movie didn’t set out to be a comedy.  In many ways, the humor is much more sedate, more dry than say, the Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy.  The humor seems on par with Ant-Man.

COMIC BOOK MOVIE FATIGUE

Many reviewers seemed to be noting comic fatigue for friends who they took to see the movie and reported not like it.  I think that they fact that it is also as much of a martial arts movie as a “Marvel” movie also has something to with one’s enjoyment.  If you don’t like Martial Arts movies then chances are really good you aren’t going to like this movie as many of its set-ups and structure follow that genre and its conventions.

In many ways, the director and writers of this movie did what I wished Joss Whedon would have done (if possible based on studio notes) for Age of Ultron. They completely went to another genre–martial arts movies, just as the last two Captain America movies have done to a larger/lesser degree political thrillers.  Imagine if Age of Ultron had gone for a completely “horror” movie vibe with Ultron (and the twins) hunting/eliminating Avengers in pursuit of the “Vision” prototype.

I wonder if it is truly a case of comic book movie fatigue or rather a miscommunication of what genre to which this movie actually belongs.

IMPLICATIONS FOR MY WRITING

Fight scenes need clarity.  As I mentioned above, this is what I’d hoped I, Magi would be like, except that Magic is limited, so they (mages) have to rely on fighting skills to make up for the lack of magic available to them.  In the movie, however, I noticed that the fight scenes were clear.  I think that at times (especially when I try for action scenes) my own description breaks down and it is unclear who is where.

I intend to try to work on that and make might fight/action scenes more clear and more visual in the reader’s mind.

Acceptances: WarLight and Childe Roland

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Source: adoubleshotofrecovery.com (via Google Images)

This week has had its ups and downs for me.  While “real” life has been very difficult in terms of my school work/teaching workload, my “writing” life has been very productive.  Two of my stories were accepted for publication!  I am ecstatic and it makes me thankful of all of the encouragement that I received from my blog post on rejections (about a month ago).  Coming up with a system of submitting to a reasonable number of markets also helped as I wasn’t so stressed out about submission process now that I have a reasonable submission goal.  The two stories that were accepted were WarLight and Childe Roland, both of which I’ve talked about previously here on the blog and both have Author’s Notes available here on the blog if you’re interested in the genesis/development of the stories.

WARLIGHT

WarLight was selected for publication by Carrol Fix as part of her Visions anthology series.  It should appear in Visions VI: Galaxies.  Regular readers of the blog will remember that Carrol also printed my story, Ship of Shadows in Visions IV: Space Between Stars in April of this year.  I really appreciate Carrol’s publication of the story and I am hopeful that I can contribute to more of her anthologies.  Visions VI: Galaxies can currently be pre-ordered from the publisher’s website, Lillicat Publishers, but the book should also be available via Amazon/Kindle (as all of the previous entries in the series have been as well).

CHILDE ROLAND

Childe Roland was selected for the November issue of Electric Spec online speculative fiction magazine (electricspec.com).  It should be available at the end of November and I will update the blog with a blog entry once the story is up and available.  Best of all, for readers, the issue is FREE!  You won’t have to subscribe or anything like that once the story is available.  They DO accept donations, so if you have some extra money, you might consider throwing some their way, but that is entirely optional.  They do PAY their writers (YAY! You go Electricspec editors!), and as a teacher who is now a poor graduate student, any amount of money that I make from my writing, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated, so please consider donating if you can afford it at all.

DR STRANGE

I also saw Dr. Strange this weekend and I really enjoyed it.  In the interest of time, I’m going to save the Mini-Review of it until next week, but if you like magic, cool special effects, and martial arts, then this movie will be right up your alley.  I should note that it is a lot like what I was trying for with I, Magi, (especially the integration of Magic with Martial Arts), but my story and it have strong enough conceptual differences that (hopefully) will keep my story from looking like an “also-ran” of Dr. Strange now that the movie has been released.

More to come next week!  ‘Till then, have a great one!

 

 

One is Not Enough, But Five is Too Many

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Found listed on Quotesgram.com

TWO MARKETS–JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT

So, I received a rejection this week on Here Be Monsters.  It stung particularly hard–not because it was a rejection or what was said in the rejection letter.  I was able to compartmentalize and objectively take the rejection in the spirit it was given: to help improve my writing for that specific market.  No, what stung was that I wanted to send it right back out, but I didn’t have a market ready for it to go to at the time it was rejected.  I had to wait (the WORST thing for me when I get a rejection) in order to send it out again.  That’s when I discovered a flaw with my submission process.  One market isn’t enough (& leads to the situation I just found myself in with HBM) and five (5) markets is too many.  Trying to decide where the story should go next, what market is open, how long it takes, do I have another market ready if this comes back too quickly, will this be out too long to keep if from going to this new anthology?  Questions like that make it too difficult to try to have a reserve of markets available to submit to after a rejection.  So, I’m going with just two (2) markets per story.  I submit to one and then have a backup market ready to go if the story is rejected.  Once I move on to the second market, I’ll then find two (2) more markets to submit to if it is rejected that second time.  This way, I will (mostly) have a market ready to send a story to immediately and I won’t feel so stung by a rejection–kinda’ hard to obsess about a rejection when you’re already hopeful that the next market will see the potential in your story.  As the quote above indicates–“adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.”  I know obsessing about rejections doesn’t do me any good, so now I need to adapt a system that works for me and minimizes the time spent obsessing about a specific rejection when I should be getting the story back on the market.

WARLIGHT ACCEPTANCE (TENTATIVE)

This week hasn’t been all bad–I just found out that Carrol Fix, the editor behind the Visions series at Lillicat Publishers, has just ACCEPTED my short story entitled, WarLight!  It should be published in Visions VI: Galaxies!  It will be published fairly soon, the middle of November.  I’ll keep everyone posted on this exciting development and will blog about it again when the anthology is released.

CHILDE ROLAND ON SHORTLIST

Also, received an email letting me know that Childe Roland has been “shortlisted” for a market (that I will not name just yet).  Shortlisting means that it survived the first round of rejections and made it to the “short list” of potential stories.  This particular market will have a 2nd round of “voting” for stories and if it survives this test, it will be accepted for publication.  This is the 2nd story this year that has managed to make it to the shortlist (I, Magi made it earlier this year for a different market, but didn’t ultimately make the cut.)

So, I’m really concentrating hard on both the creative side of writing–I’ve finished two stories since summer, and on the business side of writing–refining my submission process and managing two publications (so far) this year!

Star Wars: The Key to the Force is Belief

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This week I find myself ruminating about the power of Belief.  I received my first rejection back for my story “Silence Will Fall.”  The story came out as well as I hoped.  It differed from my dream slightly (the ending), but matched the tone that I wanted.  I decided to submit it to a larger publication for SF, but alas, as always it seems, it came back fairly quickly.  Like, an earlier post this year, “The Well is Dry,” I find myself wondering what’s the use?  Publishing a story every 2-3 years is NOT the way to build a writing career.  Unlike that post, however, I find that I’m trying to take the lesson that Luke learns in the trilogy and apply it so as NOT to write another post like “The Well is Dry.”

STAR WARS

Luke, in Episode IV, gets a bum rap.  He gets tagged with the character traits of “whiny,” and “callous” and “annoying” in popular culture than he really should based on the movie.  The character is a product of his time and a teenager to boot, so it should come as no surprise that Luke acts like a (surprise!) a teenager from the 1970’s (yes, I know in the fiction, Luke comes from “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Away,” but Lucas’ model was the 1970’s–the fuzzy dice hanging from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon is a dead giveaway.)  Yet, Luke’s journey with the Force is the KEY to the character.  Luke goes from being able to sense the Force during his practice against the remote to actively using it in the battle against the Death Star.  They pivotal scene for me is when Luke switches off his targeting computer.  The power of Faith/Belief in something larger than yourself is on full display with this scene.  When Ben’s voice implores him to “use the Force,” his switching off the computer is an act that signifies that he can’t trust the information of the physical world to help him, but that in order to be successful, he MUST believe in the Force and use it to help guide him to the perfect time to fire in order to destroy the death star.  The movie even shows the result of blindly relying on technology when the first X-Wing’s trench run results in the “bomb’s just impacting on the surface.”   The Force is NECESSARY for the success of the mission–without it there can be no victory.

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

“I don’t believe it.” (Luke)

“That is why you failed.” (Yoda)

This sums up the entire movie–the lack of faith.  Even though Luke is following his dream and learning more about the Force, he is living too much in the physical world.  He doesn’t have the same Faith in the Force.  Like any student, he must question his teacher and ask the why of things.  Now that he is learning about the Force at a deeper level, the need to know seems to override his instinctive reliance on the Force and listen to its rhythms.  Yoda, for instance, tells him that he will not need his weapons in the cave of the Dark Side, but Luke doesn’t listen.  The look on his face is actually one of incredulity and defiance.  What do you mean I won’t need my weapons; this place is dangerous, the look seems to say in one quick glance at Yoda.  What Yoda knows and Luke later discovers is that the cave is an illusion and is meant to show him what the Dark Side holds for Luke should Vader and the Emperor manage to turn him to the Dark Side.  Another instance where Luke doesn’t believe in the Force’s powers is when he rushes to save his friends before finishing his training.  Both Yoda and the spirit of Ben counsel Luke to stay and finish his training, but Luke ignores the  counsel of both of them who are far greater in tune with the Force than he is.

THE RETURN OF THE JEDI

If The Empire Strikes Back is a repudiation of the Force, then Return of the Jedi is a calm acceptance of the Force.  Han doubts Luke’s abilities (“you’re going to die here, you know,” as he tells Luke when the are on Jabba’s barge on the way to the Sarlacc pit.  Luke calmly tells Vader “that my father is truly dead,” when Vader prepares to bring him before the Emperor.  Even at the end, when the Emperor goads Luke to take up the Lightsaber and he has to fight Vader, he is able to stop himself before he becomes like Vader.  Even the resolution of the story rests, not on a massive fight scene to the death, but a son’s belief that there is still a good man wrapped in the evil shell that is Vader.  Luke’s agency in that scene is that he trusts in his intuition and insight into his father’s character.  Without that trust, without having faith and accepting the Force, even when it seems contrary to what is happening in the physical world, Luke would not have succeeded.

IMPLICATIONS FROM MY WRITING

This is something that I need to remember for my own writing.  The rejection letter came from the first market on Wed. (10/19).  Add to the fact that I was sick with a sinus infection or something, and it really seemed like hopeless.  After reflecting on the movie, I just have try and believe–even when it seems hopeless.  I just sent the story to a 2nd market today and I have a 3rd market ready to go should it also quickly come back this week.

I really believe that Silence Will Fall is one of my best stories and that eventually it will find a home.  I just have to my part and keep sending it out until it does.

May the Force Be With You, Always.

250 Words = 1 Typed Page

how-to-write-and-sell

This blog post is a little late this week (blame Fall Break as I’m trying to catch up with the myriad of things that I’ve gotten behind on) and this will be a shorter post.  I found the above book at a local used book store for about a dollar.  I’ve actually read this book before in the 90’s (?) at my local library, but they’ve long since “weeded” it from the collection.

250 WORDS = MANAGEABLE GOAL

I was reading an essay from one of the contributors and the author suggested writing 750 words per day.  Well, really the author suggested writing 3 typed pages per day, but (if you use a standard font like Courier) you’ll find that you average about 250 words per page.  This is pretty much considered standard, so 3 typed pages equals 250 * 3 = 750 words.  According to the author, if you do this consistently and diligently, you will end up with a novel length manuscript in about 90 days (3 months).  This seemed reasonable and I thought I’d give this a try last night as I am (as mentioned above) on Fall Break.

I managed 405 words in a little over an hour and a half.  Now, in my defense, I was working on a short-story that I hadn’t done any of the “Pre-Writing” that helps me, but that I haven’t been doing consistently (I did it for Dragonhawk and Here Be Monsters, but not for Ship of Shadows or Silence Will Fall, for instance).

After this experiment I want to do 2 things: 1) do my “Pre-Writing” for the story and 2) drop my target goal to 250 words a day (1 typed page).  As I seem to be locking in at about 4,000 words or so dropping down to 3 scenes instead of 5, it should take about 20 days to draft out a story (or 1 a month which has been a goal of mine for a long time).  250 words seems manageable to me based on my time and I know that I’m not going to be able to write consistently everyday–although I’m going to try for at least 4 days a week.

2 NEW PROJECTS – PROJECT FLEA AND PROJECT DUST

I’m going to try this out with two new projects: Project Flea and Project Dust.  Project Flea is a typical short-story, but Project Dust is a longer work.  It may be a while before I’m able to mention more about them, but they are in the “Pre-Writing” stages (both of them).  Project Flea is an entirely new story that just came to me earlier this month.  It isn’t from a dream or anything–it just popped into my head, while Project Dust has several pop culture inspirations including one from Dr. Who.  More on these two projects in the coming months.

Well, that’s all I have for now.  Until next time!

Mini-Review: Deepwater Horizon (No Spoilers)

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Deepwater Horizon Mini-Review

Over the weekend, I went out to see Deepwater Horizon and I enjoyed it.  It was a good movie that looked at the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon and how a system of bad decisions and poor maintenance contributed to combine into a disaster.  While it is based on a real event, it is fictionalized so that certain elements are emphasized while other elements are downplayed.  The key the enjoying this movie is to look at it as a movie, not as a biography.  As a movie, it works well, similar to others in the genre: UnstoppableSully, and Captain Phillips, etc.  As long as you realize that they are trying to make a strong movie, but are not trying to give a complete accounting of who did what, when they did it, where they did it, and why they did it, then it is a very enjoyable and tense movie.

A Tale of Two Halves

Practically speaking, the movie can be broken up into two halves: the first part and the second part.  In the first part, we see the major characters get introduced and we are given a glimpse into the family lives and banter of some of the crew.  Many of the concepts of the oil industry are also explained for the audience using clever storytelling (i.e., show, don’t tell).  By getting us to care about the characters, we are invested when things start to go wrong on the oil platform.

The second half of the movie is pretty much devoted to the disaster.  We watch as it unfolds and the chain of events get worse and worse.  We care for the characters because of the time invested in seeing their lives and interactions at home and once they are on the ship.  The action set-pieces were visually stunning and were the highlights of the movie.

Implications for my Writing

I appreciated the way the movie was structured as it allowed for sufficient character development in order for us to care about the characters.  The fact that the characters were likable and talking about an occupation that I know little about from experience helped the audience to identify with the characters.

Secondly, the filmmakers used strong foreshadowing techniques to illustrate that while the scenes with the actors interacting might seem dull or passive, that these were necessary to show the “monster” that was about to be unleashed.  Foreshadowing the tension to come is an effective way to “hook” readers to stick around while you are character building.

Lastly, the action was intense.  We follow the main character, but we do also cut away to show other characters who we’ve seen in the first part of the film.  It is important to illustrate characters under crisis and to see how they will respond.  Again, the first half sets that up wonderfully.  These are three lessons that I took away from this movie.